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Hello everyone,
This time the focus is on the Spanish, with no less than three games in the 9...Bc5 Open Variation, including two in the exciting Dilworth Variation. Otherwise, top level chess in classical and rapid formats with a couple of interesting, offbeat lines. I also added one of my own games from the recent European Club Cup.

Download PGN of October ’21 1 e4 e5 games

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Closed Spanish 8...Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d4 [C90]

Maghsoodloo, P - Santos Latasa, J TCh-ESP Rapid 2021.

The game featured an interesting, if not very popular, line with 8...Na5. In the diagram position Black chose the uncommon continuation 10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Bg4, which has already been tested by Santos earlier. The Iranian player went for 12.Nbd2, when 12.dxe5 would be the critical test of Black’s play. After the logical sequence 12...Nc6 13.h3 Bh5 14.g4! Black sacrificed a piece with 14...Nxg4!? when it turns out that White’s defence is not simple. So, after 15.hxg4 Bxg4 16.Nb3! 0-0 White went astray with 17.d5?!, when 17.Bd3 was better and promised some edge for White. Santos reacted with 17...Nb4 18.Bb1 f5!, opening the f-file. After 19.a3 Qe8! White committed the virtually decisive mistake, 20.exf5? (when instead, 20.axb4 was necessary with equal chances if White defends correctly) Black played 20...Qh5 and after 21.Be4? Rxf5! it was all over. Curiously, all of this has already been seen in Navara,D (2734)-Predke,A (2632) Riga 2019. 21.Nbd2 would be better, but White’s position would remain difficult.

The line with 8...Na5 and 10...cxd4 requires very accurate play from White, 12.dxe5 seems to be the critical test.

Spanish Open, Dilworth Variation 13.Nf1 Bxf2 14.Kxf2 fxe5 15.Kg1 Bg4 16.Ne3 Be6 17.b3! [C82]

Firouzja, A - Vidit, S Aimches US Rapid Preliminary 2021.

This line has recently been tested in a few high-profile games. In the diagram position Black played the correct 16...Be6!, when a few months ago I analysed one of my games with 16...Bxf3? Here Firouzja introduced the strong novelty, 17.b3! However, the Indian player was ready for it and answered with 17...d4!? Surprisingly, White’s next move, 18.Qd3, was already inaccurate, as the immediate 18.cxd4! should have been preferred. In the game, after 18...g6 19.cxd4 Nxd4 White committed a serious mistake, 20.Bb2? and came under pressure. 20.Ba3 or 20.Nxe5 would lead to equality. A short, but important game for the theory. White's 17.b3 is an important innovation, while Black's reply 17...d4 is a critical reaction. White's only chance to set problems here is 18.cxd4.

Carlsen, M - Mamedyarov, S Meltwater Tour Final Rapid 2021.

Mamedyarov decided to improve on Vidit’s 17...d4 and tried 17...Kh8. After the correct reaction 18.Ba3! Rf4! Magnus played 19.Bc5!? (19.Qd2!? was also interesting) when Black’s next move, 19...d4? was already the decisive mistake and so Carlsen’s move worked perfectly. Instead, 19...Qf6! was the only move.

17...Kh8 leads to a very complicated and irrational position. It seems to hold, but playing it is a very difficult task, as this game showed.

Spanish Open 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Bc2 Bf5 12.Nb3 Bg6 13.Nfd4 Bxd4 14.Nxd4 [C82]

Dominguez, L - Caruana, F ch-USA Saint Louis 2021.

In order to reach the position given above Black went for the 11...Bf5 line, which I recommended in my book The Open Spanish. After 14.Nxd4 Black went for the correct 14...Nxd4!, which is the modern choice - in the past Black preferred 14...Qd7, as in Leko,P (2545)-Kortschnoj,V (2615) Leon 1994. After 15.cxd4 c5 16.f3 Black sacrificed a piece with 16...cxd4! and White decided to reject it by means of 17.Qxd4, when the acceptance leads to a dynamically equal position. Caruana continued 17...Rc8! 18.Bb3 Nc5 19.Be3 Bd3! 20.Rfd1 Nxb3 21.axb3 Bc2 Up to this moment the players repeated the game Berg,E (2533)-Sulskis,S (2537) Germany 2014, which saw 22.Rd2. Dominguez introduced an improvement, 22.Rdc1!, Fabiano reacted correctly, 22...Bxb3 23.Rxa6 Rxc1 24.Bxc1 Qc8! 25.Ra1, but 25...Qc4 was inaccurate as well as 26...Bc2?! and 27...f6? and Lenier obtained a decisive advantage. 14.Nxd4 is an interesting way to set problems, while 22. Rdc1! is an improvement on the preceding game. In the line which occurred in this game Black should be ready to defend a slightly worse endgame, 25...Re8 should be preferred to the game continuation.

Spanish, Berlin Defence 4.d3 Ne7 [C65]

Carlsen, M - Rapport, R 9th Norway Chess Stavanger 2021.

In this very popular diagram position the Hungarian GM tried to surprise his opponent with the rather rare 4...Ne7, which has never been seen on our pages before. Carlsen chose the most popular reaction 5.0-0, when White has a few alternatives as well. The game continued 5...c6 6.Ba4 Ng6 7.Re1. Starting with 7.d4 and avoiding 7...Bc5 and 7...Bb4 is also interesting. Richard continued with 7...Be7, when he had a couple of logical and more active alternatives, 8.d4 d6 9.c3 0-0 10.Nbd2 Now, having created tension in the centre White looks slightly better, but Black could try 10...exd4, preparing ...d5 at the appropriate moment. Instead, he played 10...h6 11.Nf1 Re8 Now White’s 12.Ng3 was inaccurate as it allowed Black to play 12...Bg4 and simplify the position. The world champion had to start with 12.h3! Rapport missed this chance and had to defend a slightly worse position.

The line with 4...Ne7 is interesting and may serve as a surprise weapon, especially with shorter time controls.

Scotch 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.h4 a5 9.c4 [C45]

So, W - Nakamura, H Meltwater Tour Final 2021.

In the position given above Nakamura retreated the knight to b6, 9...Nb6. Earlier we considered 9...Ba6. After 10.Nd2 the American player introduced a new idea, 10...g6!? refusing to transpose to 9...Ba6 with 10...Ba6. Wesley continued with the natural-looking 11.h5, but the text may turn out to be inaccurate, and instead, 11.Ne4 deserved attention. Hikaru reacted with 11...Bg7, but after 12.Nf3 he played 12...Qb4 a little prematurely, when 12...0-0! was correct. In the game White immediately went astray with 13.Kd1? starting a series of mutual mistakes and inaccuracies. He was the last to err and so Black won the game.

The 8.h4 line may lead to very sharp positions, in which even the top players make numerous mistakes. Both 8...a5 and 10...g6 complicate matters, while the latter is an interesting novelty.

Giuoco Piano, Pomtow Attack 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4 7.Nbd2 d5 [C54]

Mamedov, R - Mikhalevski,V European Club Cup Struga 2021.

7.Nbd2 is a rather uncommon alternative to 7.Bd2 and 7.Nc3, and I was caught unprepared and so decided to avoid the critical continuations 7...Nxe4 or 7...Bxd2. Instead, I played 7...d5 and after 8. exd5 Nxd5 9.0-0 my 9...Bxd2?! was premature, as I had to continue with the natural 9...0-0. After 10.Bxd2 0-0 11.Qb3!? was a logical novelty, which put Black under long-term pressure. A tough game for me and a lucky escape, the line with 7.Nbd2 shouldn't set any problems if Black plays 7...Ne4 or 7...Bxd2.

Guioco Piano, 4.d3 Nf6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 Be7 7.Bg3 d6 8.a4 [C50]

Esipenko, A - Predke, A 74th ch-RUS Ufa 2021.

In the diagram position Black played the very rare 8...a5, instead of the main line, 8...0-0. After 9.0-0 (9.Nbd2 deserved attention) Black proceeded with the standard 9...0-0, when instead, 9...Nd7!? was interesting, delaying short castles and playing for the initiative. Esipenko played a new move, 10.Re1!?, in a few high-profile games White continued 10.h3. The game continued with 10...Nh7 11.h3 Kh8 12.Nbd2 f5 13.exf5 Bxf5 14.c3 Ng5. Instead, 14...Rb8! was more flexible, however, White also played a slightly inaccurate 15.Nxg5 with roughly equal chances. Instead, 15.Qb3! could set some problems.

8...a5 is an interesting idea in the 5.Bg5 line, especially if Black meets 9.0-0 with 9...Nd7!? After the new move 10.Re1 Black reacted correctly and could have fully equalised by means of 14...Rb8!


See you next month, Victor.

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